SIDNEY — Sidney piano teacher Kathleen Jendrusik was honored, Saturday, Feb. 24, at an event she created to recognize the composers who write the music her students learn to play.
Since 2014, Jendrusik has celebrated an annual Composer Day, during which her students take a master class with a composer selected by their teacher and then perform a concert of that composer’s music. Nationally known composers Carolyn Miller, Robert and Karen Vandall, Melody Bober and Dr. David Karp have been feted in Sidney.
Saturday, the composer was Jendrusik, herself.
“It’s always been my dream to have my students perform my songs,” Jendrusik said. But it wasn’t until this year that she gave the young players any self-composed songs to learn.
Once the decision was made to have Composer Day 2018 be about her, Jendrusik quickly realized that she didn’t have enough music for the number of students who would participate. Within a year, she wrote 17 pieces, and Saturday’s recital comprised 33 Jendrusik songs.
“We could hear our kids in their songs,” said Doug Smith, of Anna, who served as master of ceremonies for the event at the Sidney Church of God. “She composed the songs with each kid in mind. Whether it’s next year or when you’re 80, you can set out a piece of music and say your teacher composed it for you,” he said to the performers.
Jendrusik grew up in Columbus and attended college at Capital University. She continued to study with her piano professor, Loy Kohler, for another 14 years. He became her mentor, and it was he who suggested she become a teacher.
“He saw something in me,” Jendrusik said. “He got 40 students for me.” She has taught hundreds of children and some adults in the 42 years since.
She also composed, but not for her students.
“I wrote for weddings. I’ve written for funerals. I’ve written just to write,” she said. Only one song was ever published. But if she kept her composing quiet, she made quite a name for herself in teaching circles.
She served as the piano guild chairman of the National Piano Guild of the American College of Musicians for 40 years and as state chairman of the All-Ohio Piano Ensemble of the Ohio Music Teachers Association for 13 years. She founded the All-Ohio Competition Duettists of the Ohio Music Teachers Association and chaired the program for five years and founded the Midwest Competition Duettists of the Ohio Music Teachers Association and has chaired it since 2013. She has been inducted into the Hall of Fame of the American College of Musicians.
A member of the Delta Omicron National Music Fraternity, the Music Teachers National Association and the Ohio Music Teachers Association, Jendrusik is also the accompanist for the choirs at Fairlawn Local Schools.
To get ready for her own Composer Day, Jendrusik worked on several songs at a time. She carried staff paper in her purse and jotted down ideas as they came to her. But she didn’t write musical notes.
“I write with letters. I put rhythm to letters. I never write music notes,” she said. When she composes at the piano, she can surprise herself with what comes out of her fingers.
“All of a sudden, you’ll be playing, and you’ll play something and say, ‘What was that?’” she said.
Jendrusik also relied on her students to help focus her work. As a student played a piece during a lesson, the teacher/composer was likely to pull the sheet music away. In hearing it played, Jendrusik would decide she didn’t like what she had written or new ideas would take the piece in another direction.
”I’d show students the beginning. They’d say, ‘When are you going to finish it?’ It takes time. It doesn’t just pour out of you,” the teacher said.
That made learning the music a different process from her usual lessons, said student Grace Francis, 17, of Versailles. The daughter of Donna and Russ Francis has been studying with Jendrusik for about five years.
“She would toy around with (the song),” Francis said. “She was composing on something I was playing then.” Also different was Francis’s attitude toward the music.
“I knew (my teacher) wrote it, so I knew she knew it better than I did. So I was hoping I did it justice for her,” Francis said.
Twins McKenna and Shannon O’Donnell, 14, daughters of Robin and Mike Gossard, of Sidney, said Jendrusik’s music wasn’t more difficult than other music they worked on during lessons.
“I liked playing it,” Shannon said.
“I liked today,” added McKenna.
Not just a composer, Jendrusik also wrote lyrics for the last piece on Saturday’s program. “Glory to God” is a hymn that was sung by the Fairlawn High School Choir, accompanied by Jendrusik.
At the beginning of the event, organizers Heather Chrisman and Sonya Phillips presented Jendrusik with a ceremonial sash that read “Kathy’s Day” and a painting by Fairlawn student Josh Stekli that had been signed by Jendrusik’s piano and choir students. Sidney Mayor Mike Barhorst read a proclamation proclaiming Feb. 24 Kathleen Jendrusik Day in the city of Sidney. Jacque Jenkinson, Sonya Phillips and Summer Dilbone, who had been Jendrusik students and whose children now take lessons from her, read a poem, “The Pianist.”
Other students who performed Saturday were Martha Chrisman, Lola Chambers, Liliana Phillips, Alayna Rindler, Callum Smith, Myla Cox, Brooklyn Jackson, Isabel Rawlins, Colton Smith, Corinne Smith, Amelie Philips, Meredith Klein, Haley Cox, Johnny Chrisman, Alice Chrisman, Liz Michael, Julia Dilbone, Luke Hamaker, Jack Hamaker, Zachary Ahrens, Cassie Heath, Gabi Pelletier, Ryan Nichols, Keagan Smith and Maria Wiseman.
Reach the writer at 937-538-4824.